Organic Curry Leaves
The curry tree (Murraya koenigii or Bergera koenigii) is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae (the rue or citrus family) and is closely related to grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, mandarin and orange. The Curry tree is native to India and Sri Lanka.
Don't confuse Curry Leaves with curry powder, of which there are hundreds of variations. Curry powders are made with many different combinations of spices and Curry Leaves may be an ingredient in some curry powder versions. Don't expect that adding Curry Leaves to a dish by itself will provide enough curry flavor.
Curry Leaves are also called Diao liao jiu li xiang (Mandarin), Waraq al-kari (Arabic), Feuilles de Cari, Feuilles de Curry, Caloupilé or Carripoulé (French), Curryblätter (German), Karipatta, Mitha nim, Mitha neem patta (Hindi), Kare-rifu, Nanyozansho (Japanese), Folhas de Caril (Portuguese), Listya karri (Russian) and Folhas de Caril, Hoja or Hojas de Curry (Spanish). In the US, they are typically referred to as Curry Leaves, but may also sometimes be referred to as sweet neem leaves.
In English usage, curry has a wide meaning encompassing both spicy foods of various kinds and also Indian spice mixtures ("curry powder"). The word curry is of Indian origin, in Tamil, the most predominate language in South India and Sri Lanka, the word "kari" translates to "soup" or "sauce". The Tamil name for Curry Leaves is kariveppilai which contains "ilai" which means "leaf".
The curry tree is native to India and Sri Lanka and today is found growing wild or cultivated throughout most of the Indian subcontinent except for the higher levels of the Himalayas. Curry trees are found in the Inner Terai valleys in Nepal which is just south of the outer foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and the tree has also been found as far East as Burma.
A relatively small tree, it rarely grows above 30 feet. The aromatic leaves are pinnate (having leaflets arranged on either side of the stem, typically in pairs opposite each other), with 11-21 leaflets per branch, each leaflet is 0.79-1.57" long and 0.39-0.79" wide. The tree produces small white flowers which may self-pollinate producing small bright black berries that contain a single, large fruit. The berry pulp is edible and has a sweet, medicinal flavor but neither the berry nor the seed has any culinary applications.
Our Organic Curry Leaves are grown in India.
Curry leaves are an integral part of Southern Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine and can be found in a few Northern Indian recipes as well. Immigrants from Southern India migrated to Cambodia, Malaysia, Reunion and South Africa and Curry Leaves can also be found in some recipes from these areas as well. They're rarely found outside the Indian sphere of influence.
Curry Leaves are popular in the Indian dishes of Kadhi, Rasam and Vada. In South Indian kitchens, curry leaves are often sauteed in oil with asafoetida and mustard seeds and added to fresh coconut chutney, dals, or vegetable dishes. In Cambodia they're roasted over an open flame and then crushed into the sour soup Maju Krueng. Curry Leaves are used in some Indonesian dishes, but not as frequently as makrut lime, lemon basil, pandan or turmeric leaves.
Use Curry Leaves in the same way you use bay leaves, but unlike bay leaves, these leaves are softer and you do not need to remove before serving.
Like many spices used in India and Southeast Asia, Curry Leaves are frequently toasted in a pan with oil before adding other ingredients. Slowly cooking the leaves this way enhances the aroma and releases the volatile oils. Left in the pan, these intensified flavors are infused into the dish as other ingredients are added. The leaves can be eaten with the meal or removed before eating.
In addition to curries, we like to add Curry Leaves to fish, lamb, lentil broths, rice and vegetable dishes.
Curry Leaves work well in combination with cardamom, chili powder, cilantro, coconut, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, mustard, pepper and turmeric.
We used our Curry Leaves to make a delicious Instant Pot Coconut Fish Curry.
As with most dried leafy spices, if you can find fresh they're usually superior, but fresh can be difficult to find and these are an excellent alternative to have available. In the fresh form, they have a very short shelf life and should not be stored in the refrigerator.
Curry leaves have a subtle aroma of roasted curry with an understated flavor that is faintly spicy and bitter with citrus undertones.
We've even seen the flavor described as an herbaceous way to add umami flavor to a dish. We agree that it does provide some of the umami characteristics.
What's the best substitute for Curry Leaves?
Unlike like some herbs, there is not a really good substitute for Curry Leaves. Some cooks say that you can use bay leaves, basil or lime zest (or some combination of these). We don't really agree and feel that Makrut Lime Leaves will work in a pinch, but even they won't provide a really close flavor match.
How many Curry Leaves per ounce?
Dried curry leaves are extremely light. One ounce is equal to almost 4 cups by volume.